Thursday, September 11, 2008

Who Am I Today?

Cadaver kit. check.
It's 0400, and I'm getting the ambulance ready to roll. O2 bag, check. Trauma bag, check. Splints, saline, backboards. Check, check, check.
Tony Schloss and Jim Clarke, the other two crew members of Ambulance 102, are going through their own preparations. Jim is the driver this morning, Sept. 11. He was in the Navy between 1955 and 1959, or so. Tony is the officer in charge. He was an Air Force guy. He did spooky stuff with the Russian language. Don't ask. Now he's an IT guy.
I'm a reporter.
We're volunteers. This morning, through the Arlington Falls Church Volunteer Rescue Squad, we are helping the Arlington County Fire Department staff the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial dedication. We head out from Station 6 in Falls Church at 0440, reach Station 5, hang out. We get a briefing, snag some donuts, observe the pumped up SWAT guys, adorned with heat.
"The testesterone in there," one firefighter says, not unadmiringly, "is just flowing."
And then...

But wait. Who, exactly, am I? Right now, I mean?
My plan all along was to staff the ambulance, soak up the atmosphere and then when we got off duty write a story for McClatchy about the experience. I was looking forward to it. At 0515, though, I have second thoughts. It begins to feel sneaky, like I am a double agent. I get inside the lines, so to speak, by wearing my EMT uniform, my beloved blue ACFD hat. No other reporter could go where I go, in this particular occasion. And then I want to turn around, take down notes and bring this inside world to a broader readership? How about the people I am listening to -- the FBI SWAT medic, freshly scrubbed and heavily armed, or the grizzled Arlington medic and technical rescue expert, a great story teller who doesn't even know I exist -- am I a spy with them?
My loyalties would be too divided. I won't do it. I put down the pen and forget about being a reporter for a while....
Until, after hours of standing around talking on the perimeter of the event, no calls, utterly boring, it's time to help the lieutenant do a crossword puzzle. At last, my two worlds come together.

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